Homelessness in Lewes
“Surely there isn’t a homeless problem in Lewes?”
That’s the response we often hear when we talk to people about our charity work.
Sadly, there is.
And it’s not confined to the rough sleepers you see outside Boots or in the shop doorways on the High Street. There are many hidden homeless and vulnerable people staying in temporary housing, squats, or ‘sofa surfing’.
Homelessness is also a potential threat hanging over many people living in private accommodation, who may currently have a job and a place in their local community. Rents go up, but Local Housing Allowance – itself based on the very cheapest properties – has been frozen for four years. Just a slight change in circumstance, such as a relationship breakdown, redundancy, or ill health and ‘ordinary’ people end up on the streets.
There were 80 households in temporary accommodation in Lewes at the end of March 2018. A 31% increase in 5 years (source: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government). And those are just the official figures.
Our local council struggles to house people due to a lack of available social housing, spiralling private rents and welfare cuts.
But while arguments rage over how to solve the problem and who’s to blame for it, we prefer to address the problem head-on by supporting the people it affects right here in Lewes.
That’s why we started our charity Lewes Open Door, and that’s why we need you to help us make a difference for some of the most vulnerable people in our midst.
Our immediate goal at Lewes Open Door is to provide:
A daily drop-in homeless centre where guests can get a nourishing meal, wash, and collect clean clothes and bedding
Support with housing and benefits queries, filling in paperwork, access to the internet and contact details of agencies that may be able to offer additional support
A chance for our guests to have a chat and be listened to
We offer this between 1-3pm daily at our Westgate Chapel drop in.
The Winter Night Shelter will open on the 9th of November providing shelter, food and support over the winter months.
We also recognise that social isolation and exclusion blights the lives of many others. Our aim is to extend practical help and support to those who, for whatever reason, may also feel excluded from mainstream society and are finding it difficult to cope, including those with drug, alcohol addiction, or suffering from loneliness.
In 2017, Lewes resident Thomas Schorr-Kon was increasingly concerned about the growing number of rough sleepers on our streets. So, with a group of like-minded people, he decided to do something about it by opening a drop-in day homeless centre in Station Street, originally called Re-Homing Lewes.
In 2018, and with the new name of Lewes Open Door, the homeless centre moved to St John Sub-Castro and from there to our current base at the Westgate Chapel.
In 2019 we acquired charitable status and established Lewes’ first Winter Night Shelter.
We are a non-faith based philanthropic organisation and welcome all, but are very grateful for the kindness and practical help that many of our local churches have offered. Not least for the use of their facilities and reaching out to their congregations for donations and volunteers.